No Fear

Education prevents spread of viral urban legends

Rumor or hoax?

     The difference between a rumor and a hoax is that while hoaxes are planned fakes, rumors may be believed and innocently passed on. But once a hoax is passed on by people who believe it, it becomes a rumor.

911 reality

     National Emergency Number Association (NENA) Government Affairs Director Patrick Halley reports 99 percent of the population nationwide has 911 — less than 100 counties nationwide do not. In these counties, he says you can dial 911 and the call will be answered somewhere, but not necessarily by the local, geographically appropriate public safety answering point (PSAP).

     Ninety-seven percent of the population has E-911, in other words, when you dial 911, the call goes to the correct PSAP and the telephone number and address of the call are displayed. Ninety-two percent of wireless subscribers and 74 percent of the counties have Phase II wireless E911, which means the call is routed to the correct 911 center and a callback number and estimated location is available.

     Halley says the goal is to get all of these percentages to 100.

     While it's more of a misconception than an urban legend, Halley says it's important to clear up the misconception that wireless 911 is the same as wireline. In comparison, wireless, because of inherent technical and physical limitations, needs to get more accurate, he says. Only estimated locations are available for wireless calls. Cell phones are mobile devices without fixed addresses, either a GPS or network triangulation estimate a phone's location, which can be narrowed anywhere from 15 to 500 meters. Wireless 911 also cannot provide apartment numbers or floors.

     "We also want to get our 911 system to be able to accept any communication that an individual would otherwise use as a regular method of communicating," Halley says. "That's not what our current 911 system was designed for. We're trying to migrate the 911 system to an IP-based 911 system capable of receiving voice, video and text. Today we can take a picture with our cell phone and share it with all of our friends at the click of a button, but you can't send it to 911, where it would be beneficial to see a crash scene or what a suspect looks like."

     Equipping a 911 center with newer technologies could be especially beneficial when receiving emergency calls from people who are deaf or have speech disabilities, he says.

     Halley encourages law enforcement to be involved in planning and transition efforts to move to an IP-based next generation 911 system, because he says, "That's where the future is."

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